Where to Shoot a Turkey with a Bow

 If you’re bowhunting, placement is one of the most crucial things to consider in the last few seconds of lining up your shot.  Perfect shot placement involves aiming at the animal’s vitals. The vitals comprise the lungs, heart, and brain. You’ll need to know precisely where the vitals are before you fire. Unfortunately, most turkeys shot with a crossbow bolt or arrow are just injured. Turkeys are harder to hunt because the target range is small – about the size of a softball.  In addition, these birds are clever, and their feathers can act like armor. 

Broadside shots

 You should ensure that your shots are from the rear – or broadside. The turkey’s puffed-up areas make it challenging to locate the vitals, and a turkey’s lungs/heart are farther back than you may think. The best area to shoot for a broadside shot is the part where the body connects to the wing,  as this contains the vitals. There is a high chance of a kill shot, but you should line up another shot fast if you only break the wing. 

Quartering shots

Quartering shots can be a challenge, with a higher chance of failure if you execute them improperly. To execute this shot, envision a horizontal line from the base of the bird’s neck moving backward, then another imaginary line from the offside leg of the bird, moving up. The lines will intersect at a point; you’ll find the lungs and heart at the point of intersection. If you shoot here, you’ll kill. If you aim for a higher shot, you’ll likely hit the spine, which is almost as effective. Keep adjusting your horizontal line above the beard if the bird is strutting. Adjust the other line too. 

Straight on

If you can’t get a quarter or broadside shot, you should position your arc between the beard and the base of the neck, hitting the center point and therefore hitting the vitals. This isn’t the best shot as you can easily miss slightly and break the back wings, damaging the turkey’s vitals. It can get the job done, but you’ll want one of the other shots if possible. 

Neck and headshot

When you’re taking down big game animals, aiming at the neck or above is a bad idea. But with a tom (a mature male turkey), it can give you the ethical shot you need without the risk of incomplete wounding. If you’re worried about wounding a turkey, this is your shot. Wait for them to come closer; when stationary, aim at the base of the neck. You’ll hit the spine if you aim correctly, which guarantees an ethical and clean kill. You can also aim for the turkey’s head, But it can be challenging, as turkeys are known for erratic and sudden movements. 

Facing away 

 A turkey facing away is a fabulous opportunity for a bowhunter; it’s the best shot you can take.  You should aim at the center of the back of the bird facing the rear with its head up (and not strutting). This shot gives you a clean kill by breaking the spine and hitting the heart and lungs. 

This shot is more complicated but still possible with a strutting turkey. If it’s entirely strutting, the spine is a straight line. This angle also prevents it from seeing you. Draw your arrow and aim for the anus in this position; the arrow will go straight into the chest and hit the vitals cleanly upon firing. It’s an effective shot but may require patience and experience. 

Shooting a strutting turkey

When you are confronted with a strutting turkey, you should think twice. Of course, a turkey looks great at full strut, but they’re difficult to kill. The reason is that their feathers puff and they make erratic movements, which make it harder to line up a kill shot. Rather than being impatient, wait for it to stand still and extend its neck. You can also take a chance and make them notice you, so they pull their neck, making your shot easier. 

Things to consider when hunting turkeys 

Archery is a great hobby and if you’re looking at getting into hunting, turkey season is a great place to start. Turkeys are a great animal to hunt, especially for beginners, but they have challenges. They’re surprisingly clever and complex to take down despite their size. Here are a few tips to help you succeed in your hunt. 

Eyesight 

Most birds have excellent eyesight and can spot you – wild turkeys are no exception. When you’re bowhunting turkeys, it’s hard to get a clean kill if they notice you and become spooked. Only the most experienced hunters can manage this. Therefore, you should be discreet if you want to succeed. 

Decoys 

 Your chances of taking a turkey home are increased if you use a decoy. Depending on the season, you’ll want to vary which lure you use. A hen decoy with a gobbler is an excellent choice for the early season, as it’ll generate enough interest to entice a tom into shooting range. In contrast, you’ll want to leave the male decoys at home in the later season. 

Turkey calling 

Though difficult, some hunters find success by learning how to yelp, cluck and make turkey sounds.  You can call a turkey into your shooting range and hunt it easier. 

Camouflage 

Remaining camouflaged is critical. When hunting bigger games, scent control is important, but when hunting turkey, you should take extra care with camouflage. 

Re-aiming

If the bird runs after the first shot, particularly if you’ve hit the bird, take a fast follow-up shot, it’s unethical to panic and potentially allow an injured bird to run off into the wild. 

Shooting range 

Consider your range. The perfect range is around 45 yards, but you may need to adjust depending on the terrain and precisely what you’re shooting with. 

Timing

Consider the time you hunt –  hunting around sunrise is most effective  as the birds are lazy and vulnerable. You should start as early as you legally can. 

Check out our 5 Tips For Turkey Hunting In The Rain

Wrapping up 

Turkey hunting is exciting but can represent a challenge. For beginners, I suggest playing around with your technique and seeing what works for you, but bear in mind that some shots are more accessible to take than others. 

Overall, this article should come in handy for you.

Here is a quick recap: 

  • Bird hunting is pretty different from other forms of hunting. You can lose your shot if you spook the turkeys.  
  • Unlike deer hunting, camouflage is more critical than scent control. 
  • Be patient and take your time before you pull the trigger. 
  • Invest in a good bow. 
  •  Use decoys if necessary.  
  • Start as early as possible; they’ll be more relaxed.
  • Don’t panic if you need to re-aim – try to avoid letting a wounded animal go. It’s easier to get an ethical kill if you reload and go again.

You’ll undoubtedly have a productive season if you follow the tips above. Happy hunting! 

If you’re looking to start turkey hunting, check out our Best Recurve Bows

Trey

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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